By Diana Bocco
Having a pet first aid kit handy is a smart idea for all pet parents and can help save our furry friends during unexpected injuries. For those that want to take a natural approach, there are homeopathic and herbal remedies to consider adding to your kit that can help with everything from cuts and burns to nausea and stress.
“Homeopathy embraces the notion that the body can heal itself and that symptoms are a sign that the body is in a state of repair attempting to restore its own health,” explains Denise Fleck, a certified pet first-aid and CPR speaker and the current Career Technical Education Animal Care Instructor for the Burbank Unified School District. “Homeopathic remedies can even be administered along with other traditional treatments for better results.”
Homeopathic remedies for pets are often administered in the form of tinctures, a liquid extract made from herbs, and sugar pills, where just a drop of the remedy is placed on the pill and then given to a dog or cat, according to Fleck.
Putting together a homeopathic and natural first-aid kit requires some planning, but it can be a great option to help treat small injuries until you're able to get to the vet. “I usually reach for the natural remedies first and have had great results,” says Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM, who uses a combination of traditional Western medicine and holistic practices, such as herbal therapy and acupuncture, to treat her four-legged patients.
Here are some basic homeopathic and herbal remedies every natural first-aid kit should contain. Make sure to consult your veterinarian before administering any new remedy to your pets.
Bruises and Muscle Strains
Arnica is a great homeopathic remedy for muscle aches, spasms, pain, and bruising in pets, according to Morgan. “It can be given orally or applied topically as a diluted oil or cream,” Morgan says. “For oral treatment, I use 30C pellets—one or two given every four hours for 48 hours initially, then dropping to every eight hours.”
Arnica is a very useful first aid addition because it not only relieves pain, but also helps reduce associated swelling, according to Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM, an integrative veterinarian and the first veterinarian in the U.S. to be certified as a Diplomat of the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine for humans. “Give two pellets every hour for up to four hours to help with swelling,” Osborne says.
The plant-based remedy is also a good option for pets with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), says Morgan. “Owners can give [the pills] if they suspect the pet is having an episode of pain from IVDD while waiting to get into their veterinarian,” she explains.
Cuts and Abrasions
Calendula officinalis is a member of the sunflower family and is considered a versatile herbal and homeopathic remedy. “It can be applied as a tea or an ointment on wounds, cuts, abrasions, rashes, or insect bites,” explains Morgan. “Calendula speeds healing and decreases pain and inflammation and it has antimicrobial activities to decrease infection.”
To treat a wound, Osborne suggests mixing six drops of Calendula tincture in two tablespoons of water. “Apply to the wound, cover with gauze, and tape the gauze to the skin,” Osborne explains. “This will decrease pain.”
Calendula 6x can also be taken internally because of its antifungal properties. One tablet taken twice daily can help control yeast overgrowth in the bowel and help healing after a bout of colitis, according to Morgan.
Insect Bites and Stings
One of the simplest natural remedies for insect bites and stings is nettle leaf oil, according to Osborne. “You can rub one drop directly onto the sting to bring relief,” Osborne says. Calendula, which has a long tradition as a wound healing botanical and can help relieve inflammation and pain, is also a great option, according to Morgan.
If there's swelling and inflammation, you can also use an ice pack. “Just make sure you remove cold packs from your pet every 3-5 minutes before replacing again,” says Fleck. Placing a small towel under the ice pack will also help prevent tissue damage from excessively cold temperatures.
Tea tree oil is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-viral, insect repellant, and anti-inflammatory, according to Morgan. “It can be used as a dilute spray or cream on wounds or irritated skin,” she explains. “It also works well for ear infections when diluted in virgin olive oil.”
One word of caution: Although humans can tolerate tea tree oil at 100 percent, it must be diluted for our pets, and can be extremely dangerous for cats and small dogs, says Fleck. NEVER use 100% tea tree oil directly on your dog or cat and make sure to consult a veterinarian to discuss the proper dilution techniques to follow.
Burns and Wounds
When it comes to first aid for burns and wounds, nothing beats aloe vera, according to Morgan. “It is cooling and soothing and improves blood circulation to the area, as well as having antibacterial and antifungal properties,” Morgan explains. “Get an organic gel with no preservatives, sweeteners, or flavorings, suitable for human consumption.” It's easy to pack in your first aid kit so you can take it with you anywhere you go. But pet parents should never allow their dogs or cats to lick or eat aloe vera, as the gel and plant leaves can cause gastrointestinal upset or toxicity if large amounts are ingested. If applying topically, make sure to monitor your pet to ensure he or she is not licking the area.
As a salve, calendula can also bring relief to rashes, insect stings and sunburn, according to Fleck. “It can also stimulate the immune system and ease inflammation,” Fleck adds.
Nausea, Vomiting and Diarrhea
One of the best things you can do for vomiting and diarrhea is to withhold food and water for four to six hours, according to Osborne. After that, Osborne recommends giving your pet chamomile or peppermint tea. Osborne suggests using one teaspoon (5ml) at a time in 15-30 minute intervals. Make sure there are no additives like caffeine or additional sugar or artificial sweetener in the tea.
Another great diarrhea remedy to keep in your first-aid kit is slippery elm, which can be purchased in powdered form at many health stores. “I make slippery elm sludge using 1 teaspoon powder in one cup warm water,” Morgan explains. “Then just give your pet one teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight, three times a day.” You can also find slippery elm in pill form, which Fleck prefers. “Slippery Elm is a good across-the-board remedy in that it can aid irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and constipation,” Fleck explains.
Stress and Shock
Bach's Rescue Remedy is a homeopathic product that helps pets address stressful situations. “It is great to use at the time of trauma, including accidents, a trip to the vet, surgery, and thunderstorms,” according to Morgan.
Made from a combination of five flower essences—including Star of Bethlehem, Rock Rose, Cherry Plum, Impatiens, and Clematis—Rescue Remedy can be used as a first-aid helper to calm down your pet so he's more receptive to accepting help. “To use, simply place a few drops in your dog’s mouth, food or water bowl,” says Osborne. “Alternately, rub onto your dog's pressure points: inner ear and groin areas, where your pet is hairless.”